Professor Richard Ekins held the 37th Atkin Lecture

Richard Ekins KC (Hon), Professor of Law and Constitutional Government at St John’s College recently held the 37th Atkin Lecture (23 January) at the Reform Club.  

The Atkin lecture series is held in honour of Lord James Richard Atkin, a great British judge of the twentieth century. Each lecture within the series is given by a distinguished jurist (academic, judicial, or practicing). Previous lecture speakers have included Sir Jack Beatson, Sir David Bean, Sir Edward Garnier KC, Sir Terence Etherton and Phillipe Sands KC.   

Richard Ekins’ lecture was titled ‘Human Rights and the Rule of Law’. The lecture was raised in the House of Lords (29 January) by Lord Wolfson of Tredegar KC, former Justice Minister, in the second reading debate for the safety of the Rwanda (Asylum and Migration) Bill.  

The lecture argued that human rights law has a rule of law problem. We do not need human rights law to defend human rights or maintain the ruling of law. Moreover, it highlighted that if we are to have human rights law, then we should be entitled to insist that rights adjudication conforms to the requirements of the rule of law, which it often does not. 

The talk further illustrated selected claims concerning the Human Rights Act 1998 and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, concentrating on the Court’s assertion of a legal power to issue binding interim relief, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, which has been much discussed in recent times. The lecture argued that the Strasbourg Court’s assertion of this power demonstrates how European human rights law departs from the strictures of the rule of law.